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Unexpected Redundancy After 50 – Turning Challenges into Opportunities

If you're over 50 and have just been made redundant, it's quite normal to experience shock, fear, and a sense of bewilderment. While it's undoubtedly a challenging time, unexpected redundancy can be the catalyst for exciting new beginnings.

James Marsh
James Marsh
A published author, as well as a corporate and lifestyle media professional, James works across content, marketing and consultancy.

Unexpected redundancy can be a shock that can come out of nowhere. But it's important to remember that while this is an incredibly challenging time, it's also a moment in your life which can offer opportunities for personal growth, career re-evaluation, and finding new ways of working.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you've been made redundant unexpectedly, it is important to acknowledge the complex and conflicting emotions you may be feeling. Many say that looking back, even if they didn't feel any different at the time, it was something that affected them immensely.

Try to talk through what is happening with your family and friends, and don’t be afraid to ask for support. The mental health charity, Mind, has a useful resource called Coping with Redundancy and there is also advice available from the Government on finding work, redundancy pay, what benefits may be available to you, notice periods, tax and pensions. The Centre For Ageing Better has also just launched an initiative to help the over-50s at what can be a challenging time.

Turn This Challenge into a Positive

It might be difficult to immediately see any upsides, but redundancy is a great opportunity for a reset. Remember, the over-50s have potentially another 20 to 30 years of working life. That's twenty to thirty years of doing something you feel passionate about, something that rewards the inner you, something that gives you balance in your life.

You can use this moment to examine what you truly want from your career and for your future life. So, consider taking a pause to reflect on your skills, experience, and personal interests, to help determine the direction you want to pursue.

Redundancy Can Lead to a New Beginning

Look for the silver linings – for example, newfound flexibility to shape the next phase of your career and regain a work-life balance. As someone who is over 50, you have decades of experience and knowledge; perhaps you could offer consultancy in your area of expertise?

Did you know nearly half of the UK’s self-employed are over 50, according to The Association of Independent Professional and the Self-Employed? Maybe you’d like to work part-time or even start a business? Also, this could be a chance to use the flexibility you have been given to take two or three part-time roles in different sectors and build a portfolio career. For example, some in-house consultancy, remote tutoring or coaching, as well as voluntary work for your favourite charity. Suddenly, there could be all kinds of really positive options open to you!

Learn and Grow

This is the ideal time to focus on your personal growth. Whether you choose to upskill in your current field, take that language course you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had time for, or to gain qualifications to help you pivot to a new career, there are hundreds of courses that are easy to access – and many are free.

The National Careers Service has a helpful resource of free online learning courses. Your local council and colleges may also offer remote and in-person courses. And don’t forget to check the websites of any professional organisations you belong to – they often have training opportunities avaiaible.

How to Bounce Back and Thrive From Unexpected Redundancy

You may need to take some proactive steps to rebuild your confidence and career.

Step 1: Assess Your Financial Situation

Suddenly finding yourself out of work can be worrying and you may be concerned about money. This is a natural reaction; so, take stock and evaluate your finances. The Money Advice Service offers useful guidance on managing finances during redundancy. If you have an independent financial advisor, ask for their advice. When you have a good understanding of your financial situation and the possibilities, you will feel less anxious.

Step 2: Update Your CV

If you are planning a pivot to a new direction, a career change or just staying in the same sector, you will need to update your CV. And if you are feeling a little out of touch with the job market, Lucy Standing of Brave Starts gives her eight top tips on jump-starting your job search. And make sure you really understand how to make your cover letters really stand out with our helpful guide.

Step 3: Use Your Network

Check in with your existing network of work colleagues and friends – they will want to help and may know of job openings that you haven’t considered. The majority of job vacancies (about 70-80%) aren’t ever advertised and are filled following the recommendation of a colleague. If your network doesn’t know you are looking, how will they know to recommend you? Tell them! Find out about the benefits of networking when you are over 50.

Step 4: Stay Positive and Resilient

It is important to remember that redundancy is not about you, your skills or your value – it is a decision your previous organisation took for commercial reasons. Other employers understand this, and you will not be judged because you have been made redundant. When chatting to future employers and your network, you can explain the challenges your previous employer faced and how you understand the difficult decision they had to make. Don’t forget, your achievements in your last role are still valid and something to be celebrated.

Get Inspired

There are so many incredible stories of people in their 50s and older who have started a new chapter of their lives at moments like these. We call them Redefiners. Every one of them has faced challenges, and recovering from unexpected redundancy is no different. Redundancy is a challenge for anyone. But it us also an opportunity to reset, embrace the possibilities and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.